My name is Daniel Harbridge. I’m the Digital Communications Specialist at CMHA Kelowna and I’m a chronic nail biter.
I’ve always been an anxious person, hiding behind my dad as a youngster when I was being introduced to strangers, sitting at the back of the class in an attempt to avoid my grade 12 chemistry teacher quizzing students, and crossing the street to avoid conversations with oncoming acquaintances on days I was particularly high strung, all the time with my hands in my mouth, nervously chomping on my nails.
Year after year, I heard:
“Get your hands out of your mouth”
“No te metas los dedos en la boca” (in Spanish, from my mom who’s from Barcelona)
“Dan, that’s gross!” (often followed by someone smacking my hand away from my face)
Despite the constant condemnations, my nails got shorter and shorter (sometimes, painfully so)…
Nail-biting has long been my go-to coping strategy when I’ve been on edge. I understood why others wanted me to cut back on my unsanitary habit but attempts to stop constantly ended in failure because I was never doing it for me.
This month, that has changed. Everywhere you turn, medical professionals are recommending people keep their hands away from their faces. I’ve decided that for the sake of my health and others, it’s time to change my habits.
The truth is that, if unchanged, my unhygienic behaviour could lead to me spreading a virus to someone whose immune system isn’t as strong as my own. I couldn’t live with myself if I failed to take action and it led to tragic consequences for someone else.
Here are some strategies I’m going to try to stop biting my nails and keep my hands away from my face:
- Asking For Support
I’ve asked my girlfriend to gently remind me if she sees me with my fingers in my mouth. Often times, it takes little more than a soft “Dan!” and a head shake to remind me. While I might have been annoyed in the past to be asked to stop, in committing to quitting this habit, I will tell myself (kindly) that I will need reminding for a short time if I’m going to be successful.
- Bitter Taste
There are a number of safe to consume products on the market that can be brushed on your nails that’ll give you a sour reminder every time you put your fingers in your mouth. I purchased a bottle from a drug store the other day (found in the nail polish aisle) for less than $10 that I brush on my nails and cuticles every couple of days. It tastes like a combination of grapefruit and pennies. It’s just unpleasant enough to remind me that I’m doing something I’d like to stop.
- Keeping Them Short
Anytime I’ve had success growing my nails out in the past, the one pitfall was always the strange feeling of ACTUALLY HAVING NAILS. It was simple; the sensation of having nails made me want to trim them and usually I’d regress by biting them. This time, I plan to cut my nails with scissors as they grow out to prevent myself from feeling the need to shorten them in other ways.
I’d love to hear what tips you might have for me and others on how to increase the likelihood of success when trying to stop habitual nail-biting and what you’re doing to manage your anxiety in these difficult times. Please comment below!
Thanks for reading!